Raewyn Lawrence, Annie Franklin win 'River of Dreams People's Choice Award

River of Dreams People's Choice Award winning artworks by Annie Franklin, Raewyn Lawrence and runner-up Mandy Hillson.
River of Dreams People's Choice Award winning artworks by Annie Franklin, Raewyn Lawrence and runner-up Mandy Hillson.

South Coast artists dug deep to find personal meaning for River of Art Festival's exhibition theme "River of Dreams".

The exhibition was named after the Billy Joel hit, and for Raewyn Lawrence, the line "I must be looking for something sacred I lost" struck a chord.

Ms Lawrence won the exhibition's People's Choice Award along with joint-winner Annie Franklin at the the Basil Sellers Exhibition Centre in Moruya.

In Ms Lawrence's painting, a girl looks from a boat into the water and sees a reflection of memories and feelings.

"It's quite a personal piece," she said. "Being in the reflection is a memory I've lost - but I still have that memory."

"It can relate to just about anybody - that love, loss and warm, happy memories. We don't lose those."

Ms Lawrence began her piece with a basic pencil drawing and used an old copper boiler, silver spoon ladles and Edward Lear's 1871 nonsense poem, "The Owl and the Pussycat" as inspiration.

The painting evoked memories of family.

"I didn't want it to be be very tragic or too sad but it's just about reflection and love," she said.

She was "totally surprised" when she won the People's Choice Award alongside Annie Franklin.

"I hadn't considered it, we've been kind of busy and I didn't really realise there was a People's Choice," she said.

"I might have voted for someone else. I came to the opening and it was very crowded. I was just preoccupied with one child coming back from Jindabyne that day from cross country about that time and getting her home and in bed."

She said Amanda Williams, of art shop Amanda's of Mogo, who sponsored the winning prizes was "a really important person to me".

"I buy a lot there and I think her business is really important to artists locally because there is no other art shop for many hours drive - a real art shop."

Annie Franklin talks about what makes up her winning artwork "Currawong looking up looking back"

A currawong call gave Annie Franklin inspiration to paint her joint-winning piece of the Murrumbidgee River, "Currawong looking up looking back".

"The currawong is the sound of my childhood," she said.

"I grew up in Canberra and so it's looking up across the river up to the hills but at the same time looking back in terms of my childhood.

"So it's that sweet-sad feeling of nostalgia ... it's a visit to a place I used to go to as a child, as a teenager.

"I hadn't been for many, many years and just recently my parents moved to a suburb that stretches close to the river ... it was still beautiful, flowing and still quite majestic."

Ms Franklin primarily works in gouache, similar to watercolour, but also paints plein air out of the studio.

"I went back to the studio with photos, sketches and little drawings that I work from," she said.

"(But) to create that sort of memory feeling aswell, stepping away from it and remembering how it felt rather than just painting it as a direct response to how it looks.

"It's typical of me to paint in that sort of style of the finer detail, the narrative, always a little bit of decorative something going on that tells a bit more about the story."

She said it was great to finally meet joint-winner Ms Lawrence.

"I'd seen Raewyn's work before because we both show at Gallery Bodalla so we'd seen each other's work there but we hadn't met. So that felt like being in really nice company," she said.

About 1500 art lovers attended the River of Dreams exhibition across the River of Art Festival that finished May 27, and a record 250 people attended the exhibition's opening night.